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Digital Subscriptions > Psychologies > No. 158 > Dearly not departed

Dearly not departed

Why do we find it so hard to tell our friends and family how wonderful we think they are, until it’s too late? Lizzie Enfield set out to change that

relationships

Once, I invited my friends to a birthday lunch with the message: ‘No presents please,’ and added, ‘but you can all say one nice thing about me!’ Needy, I know! But, there is a tendency for people to feel they must do something on a birthday, and I didn’t want them to feel obliged to buy a gift. I thought the compliment idea was a great alternative – but, towards the end of the meal, no one had volunteered anything.

I nudged them and, in return, received awkward and anxious looks. A few friends stared hard at their plates. A couple volunteered a few ‘warm, witty and wises’… I turned to one of my oldest friends. She would not fail me. She would have something nice to say, surely?

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